Living Together: Minority People and Disadvantaged Groups in Japan
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    Contents of This Chapter
    1. 2-2-1  Special Measure Legislature (SML)
    2. 2-2-2  Education
    3. 2-2-3  Buraku Identity
    4. 2-2-4  Employment
    5. 2-2-5  Psychological Discrimination
  3. 2-3  HUMAN RIGHTS
    1. 2-3-1  From the Buraku Problem to the Human Rights Problem
    2. 2-3-2  Human Rights Education
    3. 2-3-3  Dōwa Education/Human Rights Education at School and in the Community in Marugame City

Buraku people, a population of one to three million, have been stigmatized as the descendants of former outcastes.  According to the official definition, Buraku people are the descendants of former outcastes who had been forced to live in specific Buraku (“hamlet”) districts, and were freed by the 1871 Emancipation Edict.  Because of this stigma, Buraku people are still a socially discriminated-against minority group in Japan. 

In 1993, 892,751 Buraku people in 4,442 government-designated Buraku districts amounted to 41 percent of the whole population in the Buraku districts, most of which are in the western and southern parts of Japan (Sōmuchō 1995:71).  If there is one Buraku person in a household, everyone in the home is considered to be Buraku.  The statistical data in this chapter, unless otherwise stated, derive from the 1993 survey of the Dōwa districts and the opinion polls conducted by the Prime Minister’s Office (Sōmuchō 1995).  The Buraku districts are heavily concentrated in the western and southern parts of Japan.  The number of Buraku children living in the Buraku districts amounted to 71,888 elementary school children, 1.1 percent of all elementary school students, and 38,807 middle school children, 1.1 percent of all middle school students (Sōmuchō 1995:79).

However, the Buraku Liberation League (BLL), the nation’s largest Buraku organization, claims that there are 6,000 Buraku districts and more than three million Buraku people in Japan (Buraku Liberation News 1997, No. 99).  The BLL uses the population of Buraku people estimated by the Suiheisha (“The Levelers’ Association”) in its inaugural declaration of 1922.  The Suiheisha was the first nationwide association of Buraku people, and the forerunner of the BLL.  The BLL counts many small and unrecognized Buraku districts and “passing” Buraku people outside of Buraku district in their statistics.

It was not until the implementation of the 1969 Special Measures Law for Assimilation Projects (SML) that the government committed itself to earmarking a considerable amount of public resources for Buraku people.  After thirty years, the living standard of Buraku people has dramatically improved.  However, Buraku people remain below the national average in educational attainment, occupational status, and household income.  Prejudice and discrimination persist despite the implementation of Dōwa (“Integration”) education. 

The enforcement of the 1969 SML and its revisions with a 16 trillion-yen budget ended in March 2002.  Today, the government and the BLL consider the Buraku problem a human rights problem, and seek a solution under the domestic and international human rights movements.  Buraku people have collective human rights and group-differentiated rights as a disadvantaged minority, and deserve affirmative action as a temporary means of compensating for the injustice and discrimination they have suffered. 


According to the officially accepted political implementation theory, by the end of the sixteenth century, the political authority invented the stigma of Buraku people.  They forced some people who performed “degrading” work to live in the segregated Buraku (“hamlet”), and placed them below the rigid four-layer caste system (Samurai-Farmers-Craftsmen-Merchants) as the new outcastes.  The samurai authorities, less than 10 percent of the population, needed a scapegoat class in order to ease discontents of farmers, craftsmen, and merchants by making them feel superior to outcastes (Teraki 1996). 

Only 58 percent of non-Buraku people know their historical origin.  Recently, this political implementation theory has been challenged by the discovery of some Buraku districts that date to before the medieval period (Fujita and Morooka 1998; Yagi 1998).

The origin of the Buraku can be traced back to the end of the medieval period.  At this time, the samurai authority that had been caught off-guard by many mass rebellions such as the riots of Ikkō (True Pure Land Sect of Buddhism) confiscated the swords of the populace, and created the foundation of a rigid caste system under the reign of Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1590-1598).  The authority placed the “degraded people” such as kawaramono (“riverside people”) and eta (“filth”) into restricted Buraku areas.  The “degraded people” were butchers, tanners, and gravediggers.  Buddhist and Shintoist beliefs held these livelihoods to be profane.  In addition, the authority included some lower class craftsmen and peasants, and possibly the defeated rebels of Ikkō riots into eta or hinin (“non-human beings”) (Teraki 1996). 

Buraku districts were concentrated in the western part of Japan.  During the Edo period (1603-1867), the eta/hinin suffered social ostracism and discrimination as “contaminated” people.  Hinin is the lowest status; however, the hinin could elevate their status to farmers/craftsmen/merchants through adoption, unlike eta (Imazu 1993: 171-172).  They practiced endogamy, and worked as leather workers, prison guards, and farmers in Buraku communities.  Despite their lowest status, the monopoly of their specialized work afforded them financial stability.

After the 1871 Emancipation Edict, Buraku people were registered as “new commoners” in the official family registry.  Large-scale peasants’ riots against the Emancipation Edict indicate the depth of animosity against the Buraku.  The living conditions of Buraku people were actually worsened because they lost some of their professional monopolies.  Discrimination continued at school, in the community, and at work.  Poverty, discrimination, and endogamy kept most Buraku people in the lowest strata of society.  In the 1910s, civic leaders and Buraku sympathizers started the Yūwa (“Assimilation”) movement, which called for sympathy toward Buraku people in the name of the Emperor.   

Buraku people developed strong group solidarity and its own culture through the practice of endogamy and the common memories of social isolation.  In 1922, the solidarity of Buraku people was strengthened beyond the district level through the foundation of Suiheisha (“The Levelers’ Association”).  The Suiheisha called for the unification of all three million Buraku people to fight against injustice and discrimination.  The radical and leftist Suiheisha adopted the denunciation tactic in order to eliminate the prejudice of non-Buraku people.  In 1927, the government took over the Yūwa movement with the intent of undercutting the Suiheisha movement by improving conditions in the Buraku communities. 

Discrimination against Buraku people in education prevented Buraku people from obtaining the education that would assure upward social mobility.  Many Buraku children were coerced to enroll in segregated Buraku schools or to stay in Buraku classrooms.  Due to extreme poverty and discrimination, the enrollment rate for Buraku children in elementary schools was far below the national average.  For example, in Mie in 1912, the actual attendance of Buraku children in elementary schools was 37 percent for boys and 15.4 percent for girls while for non-Buraku boys and girls the averages were 88.8 percent and 66 percent respectively.  The Ministry of Education (MOE) finally ordered the abolition of school segregation in 1932.  Fewer Buraku students (24.6%) than the national average (69.4%) pursued education beyond elementary schools in 1936 (Yasukawa 1998:572-573).  As a result, the number of Buraku people without any schooling was ten to fifteen times higher than that of non-Buraku people in 1993.  Therefore, the illiteracy rate is extremely high among older Buraku people: one in two in their 80s, one in four in their 70s, and one in ten in their 50s (Buraku 1997:96-101). 

When military operations in China escalated in 1937, almost all social movements, including the Buraku movement of the Suiheisha rallied to the war effort.  In 1937, Suiheisha declared that it would join national policy for war, and in 1942, the Suiheisha dissolved.  The Ministry of Education started Dōwa “Integration” education in 1942, and the former Suiheisha members cooperated with the government to promote Dōwa enterprise and Dōwa promotion movement that helped war enterprises and national policy. 

After World War II, the struggle of Buraku people for their human rights strengthened their solidarity.  In 1946, the National Committee for Buraku Liberation (NCBL) succeeded the Suiheisha, with the support of the Communist and Socialist parties.  The NCBL regarded Buraku discrimination as a remnant of the feudal system, and battled the government that ignored the impoverished living conditions of Buraku people.  In 1955, the NCBL became the Buraku Liberation League (BLL), and thereafter, the BLL has been the largest and most influential movement of Buraku people.  The BLL started the liberation movement with the ideological and class-conscious principles against monopolistic capitalism and imperial system in partnership with other socialist and labor movements.  Denunciation sessions were used to eliminate prejudice. 

Even after World War II, social ostracism forced Buraku people to stay at the bottom of the social and economic ladder.  Many Buraku people were denied employment because of their origin, and lived in poverty.  Buraku people were still forced to live in isolated Buraku communities as “contaminated” outcastes, and remained endogamous.  According to a 1993 survey, among married male Buraku people 60 years old or older in Buraku districts, 70 to 80 percent of them had a Buraku spouse (Sōmuchō 1995:81).

Poverty and discrimination caused the extremely high rate of absenteeism, school dropouts and delinquency among Buraku children.  The long-term absenteeism of Buraku children in middle schools amounted to 20 to 30 percent in the 1950s in Nara Prefecture, though it decreased to 6 percent in the 1960s.  In contrast, the national average long-term absenteeism was only 2 to 3 percent in the 1950s and 1960s.  In Nara Prefecture in 1953, middle school students blamed their absenteeism on poverty, laziness, the need to work, and a lack of parental understanding.  In the 1950s, Buraku elementary and middle schools children had low scores on IQ tests and Standard Achievement Tests.  The rate of illiteracy is extremely high among the older Buraku people: one in two in their 80s, one in four in their 70s, and one in ten in their 50s.  The proportion of Buraku people without any schooling is ten to fifteen times higher than that of non-Buraku people.  The high school enrollment rate of Buraku children (30%) was less than half of the national average (70%) in the mid-1960s (Buraku 1997:96-105; DeVos and Wagatsuma 1967:260-264). 

In addition, Buraku children developed pessimistic and negative attitudes toward education after they had seen prevalent unemployment and underemployment among Buraku adults, and employment discrimination experienced by their families and neighbors.  Many of Buraku people were day laborers, small shopkeepers, or unemployed.  Discrimination in job recruitment, and the underemployment of Buraku youths in private companies was well-known.  Very few Buraku people obtained professional and managerial jobs or full-time employment in large companies.  Buraku children were discouraged from continuing their education because they knew that educational credentials would not allow them to break through the class ceiling associated with Buraku origin.  Fueled by their distrust in the school system and society, some Buraku children developed “oppositional identities” (Ogbu 1991:16) in the 1960s.  Poverty, a lack of education, and unemployment contributed to a high rate of delinquency among Buraku youths.  The delinquency rate of Buraku youths (15.10/10,000) was three times more than the national average (4.49/10,000) in Kōbe (DeVos and Wagatsuma 1967:266). 

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2-2-1  Special Measure Legislature (SML)

The vicious cycle of poverty and discrimination was finally broken by the implementation of affirmative action measures for Buraku people under the Special Measures Law for Assimilation Projects (SML) of 1969.  The government acknowledged that Buraku people should have collective rights to remedy the legacy of past injustice and prejudice.

The government-appointed Deliberative Council for Buraku Assimilation issued a report in 1965 that made the government responsible for solving Buraku problem swiftly.  The report claimed that the Buraku problem consisted of socioeconomic and psychological discrimination.  The disparities in education and employment resulted in impoverished living conditions, a higher rate of welfare recipients, a lower occupational status, and lower educational attainment.  Psychological discrimination, in the form of derogatory remarks, comes from prejudice.

In response to the report, the government enacted the SML in 1969, which legalized affirmative actions for Buraku people.  The government endorsed public subsidies for the improvement of the Buraku community through a construction of their streets, houses, community centers, and schools.  The government also has sponsored Dōwa education in order to improve the educational attainment of Buraku children through compensatory education and scholarships, and to change the attitudes of non-Buraku people through social education.  The SML was a political and moral attempt to eliminate injustice and discrimination.  Preferential treatment for Buraku people has been justified as a temporary remedial measure to create educational, occupational, and socioeconomic parity between Buraku and non-Buraku people.  The SML assured specific group rights to Buraku people as a disadvantaged group, but did not guarantee the right of an individual Buraku person to seek legal redress when his or her rights were violated.  The government as well as the BLL preferred to solve problems on a case by case basis.

The BLL has the legal authority to handle the funds for Buraku communities.  Buraku people collaborate with the government in enforcing the SML.  The BLL uses collective denunciation (“kyūdan”) to change discriminatory attitudes. The denunciation session, initiated by the Suiheisha, has become the legitimate methods to protect the rights of Buraku people, supplementing inadequate legal sanction for individual offenders.  The denunciation tactics of the BLL have intimidated the general public, and the Buraku problems have become a very sensitive topic.

The supporters of the Japan Communist Party (JCP) in the BLL opposed the exclusive policy of the BLL, and called for the cooperation of Buraku people with other working class and disadvantaged people.  They split from the BLL under the leadership of the Japan Socialist Party (JSP) in 1970, and formed their own organization, the Zenkairen (National Buraku Liberation Alliance) in 1976.  The Zenkairen promotes social integration of Buraku people with other oppressed people, the independence of Buraku people, and the cooperation of Buraku people with the neighboring communities under the “Integration Theory” (komumin yūwaron).  The Zenkairen criticizes affirmative action measures that are only for Buraku people, and the BLL’s exclusive oversight of these measures.  It also criticizes the BLL’s denunciation tactics because they often backfired by intensifying the fear and hatred that the BLL wanted to end.  Conflicts between the JSP-backed BLL and the JCP-backed Zenkairen sometimes ended in violent fights over the denunciation tactics, and the Zenkairen challenged the legality of the denunciation in court in the 1970s.  In 2004, the Zenkairen became the Chiikijinkenren (National Confederation of Human-Rights Movements in the Community), by declaring that Buraku problem had been solved. 

In another movement, the All-Japan Dōwa Association was founded by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in 1960.  Some critics split and formed the National Association of Freedom and Dōwa in 1986.  The latter makes efforts to promote the government’s charge of the Buraku problem and to eliminate fraud by non-Buraku people who apply for Buraku benefits (Komori 1997:142-143).

For 33 years, the SML has supported the improvement of living conditions, the promotion of industry, employment, education, human rights activities, and social welfare for the Buraku community by spending 16 trillion yen from 1969 to 2002 (AS April 1, 2002).  For example, the budget for the fiscal year 2000 was 36.4 billion yen, 75.7 percent of the 1999 budget, including 20.6 billion yen from the Ministry of Construction, 9.2 billion yen from the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, and 5.9 billion yen from the Ministry of Education (Tagami 2000:40-41). 

The BLL successfully lobbied for the extension of the SML by claiming that discrimination persisted in socioeconomic conditions and social relations.  The government has spent most SML budgets to improve Buraku districts, and the socioeconomic status of Buraku people.  The massive construction of the infrastructure of Buraku districts has transformed a shabby Buraku district into one with new houses, wide streets and good sanitation.  Buraku people are eligible to rent or own a newly built or renovated home.  Their living standard has also greatly improved.  The upward mobility of Buraku people proves that economic inequality against Buraku people might be declining, while the frequency of hostile incidents and remarks confirms their ongoing stigmatization.

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2-2-2  Education

Dōwa education has two purposes: 1) to provide non-Buraku people with the proper knowledge and understanding of Buraku issues in order to eliminate prejudice and discrimination toward the Buraku; and 2) to sponsor affirmative action programs aimed to improve the educational attainment of Buraku children.  Dōwa education has succeeded in improving the educational attainment and achievement of Buraku children.  For example, the high school enrollment rate rose from half the national average in the 1960s to 90 percent by 1975, compared to 95 percent of the national average (Buraku Kaihō 1997:104-105).  The improvement of community environments helped Buraku parents provide a stable home environment for their children, and invest more time in their children’s education because they could work less to make ends meet.  Since 1966, Buraku scholarships and loans for high school and college education assisted Buraku children from low-income families. 

Dōwa teachers have played the most significant role in improving school performance and behavioral problems of Buraku children.  Since 1969, the government has trained Dōwa teachers specifically for Buraku children if the number of Buraku children reaches to a certain proportion of the total student body.  Dōwa teachers prepare programs and workshops on Dōwa education, guide troubled Buraku students who struggle with absenteeism, school refusal, or delinquency, tutor, teach Buraku identity education, offer career guidance, and collect, make, and/or organize teaching materials and resources for Dōwa education (Buraku Kaihō 1986:597).  Dōwa teachers provide Buraku children with hope and expectations through after-school lessons and the Buraku Children’s Association.  Dōwa teachers also help other teachers understand Buraku children and Buraku cultures as a mediator between teachers and the Buraku community.  This minimizes the likelihood of cultural miscommunication and conflicts.  Dōwa teachers participate in municipal, prefectural and national workshops, conferences, and voluntary study groups in order to promote understanding of the Buraku problem and culture, and to learn a better pedagogy of Dōwa education.  The Zendōkyō (National Dōwa Educators’ Association) has been the most influential and largest association of teachers and community leaders for Dōwa education since 1953.  The Zendōkyō cooperates with the government and the BLL on behalf of the education of Buraku children.

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2-2-3  Buraku Identity

In recent years, group solidarity among Buraku people has weakened, and the Buraku identity has become ambiguous, especially among young people as more Buraku people are assimilating, leaving Buraku districts and marrying non-Buraku people.  As a result of the exodus of Buraku youths and the influx of low and middle class non-Buraku people, the percentage of Buraku people within the whole population in the Buraku districts decreased from 71.9 percent in 1971 to 41.4 percent in 1993 (Sōmuchō 1995:71). According to a 1995 survey in Mie prefecture, 38 percent of Buraku households had a child who had left the Buraku district.  Since 1997, the BLL provides a BLL membership for all residents in the Buraku district, including non-Buraku people (Noguchi 2000:17, 28).  Buraku people outside of the Buraku districts tend to assimilate.  They can “pass” unless someone intentionally investigates their origin.  Moreover, the rate of endogamy among Buraku people has plunged from 70 to 90 percent among people aged 60 or older to only 25 percent in those in their 20s within the Buraku district (Sōmuchō 1995:81).

The outflow of Buraku youths has caused a shortage of future Buraku leaders.  Furthermore, as one survey of a Buraku community shows, the younger generation tends to be more indifferent to the problems of the Buraku and to the Buraku liberation movements (Yagi 1994:130-132).  Also, young Buraku people are less conscious of their Buraku identity (Kadooka 1999:234).

When equity in socioeconomic conditions reaches the national average, and the prejudice and discrimination against Buraku people are eliminated, the Buraku identity will vanish.  “Buraku heritage” remains among Buraku people as collective memories of past suffering and struggles against discrimination.  It will become a historical identity of a formerly reviled social group.  It takes time to purge non-Buraku people of their prejudices, but the Buraku problem will be solved, and there will be no social discrimination against the Buraku.  Their label as the descendants of former outcastes will disappear.

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2-2-4  Employment

Despite the persistence of employment discrimination, Buraku job-seekers confront much less discrimination than before.  The lower human capital and employment discrimination had limited upper occupational mobility, and accounted for higher rate of unemployment and welfare recipients among Buraku people for a long time.  Many Buraku youths used to be indifferent to higher education because they saw the persistence of unemployment, underemployment, and discrimination in the recruitment process. 

The incident of the “Buraku Lists” (chimei sōkan) in 1975 revealed that investigative agencies had compiled a list of Buraku districts and sold it to many companies.  Companies used the list to exclude applicants with Buraku origins.  The investigators were also able to infer an applicant’s Buraku origin from the former family registry in city halls.  The BLL successfully lobbied for the abolition of the former family registry and the imposition of restrictions on access to information in family registries.  In 1985, Osaka Prefecture prohibited employers from investigating the origins of job applicants.  Despite these measures, the investigation of Buraku origin for job applicants continues.  The BLL also established uniform application forms, which do not require the listing of the occupation of the parents, because such information, such as shoemaking, could reveal Buraku origin.  Since 1997, high school graduates have also had to use a uniform application form, which mentions neither permanent legal domicile nor family information. 

Discrepancies in employment between Buraku people and non-Buraku people have considerably decreased, particularly among well-educated young people.  The Ministry of Labor (Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare since 2001), following the SML, has provided vocational training and guidance to middle and high school graduates.  The Ministry of Labor started the System of Promotion of Dōwa Workshop in Enterprises in 1977.   Private companies are encouraged to sponsor Dōwa education for their employees.  In general, Buraku people work in the construction industry and the civil service, while they are less likely to have managerial and administrative jobs than non-Buraku people are (Table II-1).  Special preferences are granted to Buraku people for employment as civil servants in some municipal administrations, such as Kyoto.  When Buraku people living outside a Buraku district are included, the difference is less pronounced because most of these Buraku people are more assimilated.  

Traditional Buraku industries include leather processing, meat-packing, processing of waste articles, production of footwear, leather sporting goods, bamboo crafts, and artificial pearls.  In recent years, the shoe making and meat industries in the Buraku district have many non-Buraku workers because younger Buraku people do not want to work in the Buraku traditional industry.  They started to employ foreign workers.  Also, the slaughterhouses and the Farmers’ Cooperatives are being constructed outside of Buraku districts (Noguchi 2000:112-126).

Table II-1    Types of Employment of Buraku people and the National Average among Workers 15 Years Old or Older

Buraku People (1993) National Average (1992)
Agriculture, forestry, fishery 7.7% 6.4%
Mining 0.4% 0.1%
Construction 17.0% 9.5%
Manufacturing 21.1% 23.7%
Utilities 3.0% 0.6%
Transportation and telecommunication 5.7% 6.0%
Wholesale, retail, restaurants 14.6% 22.2%
Finance, insurance, real estate 1.9% 4.3%
Service 16.8% 23.4%
Other public services 10.8% 3.1%
(Sōmuchō 1995:86)

Despite the outstanding improvement in occupational status, a higher rate of unemployment and welfare recipients is still discouraging.  In 1993, 5.2 percent of Buraku people received welfare, compared to 0.7 percent nationwide (Sōmuchō 1995:73).  The difference in the employment of temporary workers between Buraku people and non-Buraku people is about 8 to 10 percent since 1977.  The difference in the ratio of the households on public welfare or tax exemption to the whole households has been about 10 percent since 1985 when 25.8 percent of households in the Buraku district and 15.9 percent of households nationwide were on public welfare or tax exemption.  Suginohara points out that the discrepancy is not based on Buraku problems because the degree of discrepancy has not narrowed for more than ten years, despite the affirmative action programs (Suginohara 1998).  The small remaining discrepancy in the sectors of employment is probably due to the problems of the low-income people in general rather than to those of Buraku people (Zenkairen 1998:414).

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2-2-5  Psychological Discrimination

Psychological discrimination from non-Buraku people stubbornly persists.  Hostile incidents and epithets, avoidance, and prejudice and hatred toward Buraku people still exist.  Marriage to Buraku people is a litmus test for non-Buraku people.  There have been many cases of breaking off an engagement and ending the relationship with non-Buraku (in-law) parents.  Eight percent of Buraku people said that they had experienced discrimination at marriage (Sōmuchō 1995:95).  Among non-Buraku married couples, 45.7 percent of them would approve of their children marrying Buraku people without any hesitation, while 41.0 percent of them would reluctantly agree.  And 7.7 percent would not allow their children to marry against the wishes of their relatives, and 5.0 percent of them would not allow the marriage at all.  Among unmarried non-Buraku people, 17 percent of them would marry a Buraku person without any hesitation, and the majority (62.8%) would try to win over their parents.  And 16.8 percent would give up if their parents disagreed, and 3.4 percent of them would not marry (Sōmuchō 1995:100-102). 

The collective memories about former “contaminated” outcastes have caused non-Buraku people to avoid “mixing” with Buraku people in order to keep face.  It is quite possible that the traditional practice of endogamy among Buraku people has created the impression of a Buraku “blood” heritage, and a misleading image of a Buraku “race.”  Buraku people had been forced to live within an isolated Buraku community as “contaminated” outcastes, and had a tradition of endogamy for several hundred years.  Even now, 70 to 80 percent of Buraku people 60 years old or older within a Buraku district are married to a Buraku spouse.  The practice of endogamy gradually faded away, and only 25 percent of Buraku people in their 20s have a Buraku spouse (Sōmuchō 1995:81). 

Many Japanese believe that their “race” is protected by Japanese “blood” heritage.  They avoided marrying Buraku people in order to keep their lineage “pure.”  Another ground for avoidance is their fear of Buraku “militancy.”  Although the BLL denunciation sessions have been effective political strategies, they have also created a public image of the Buraku as confrontational.Unfortunately, discrimination by non-Buraku people still persists.  The 1996 report on discriminatory incidents included offensive statements and graffiti at workplace, school, and community, prejudicial remarks on the Internet, discrimination in marriage and employment, and investigation by detective and real estate agencies (Buraku Kaihō 1998).  The remarks and graffiti are intended to incite hostility toward Buraku people, mentioning the derogatory names for Buraku people such as eta (“filth”), hinin (“non-human beings”), yotsu (“four-legged animal”), and hate remarks such as  “Die” and “Stupid.” 

Teachers and civic leaders sometimes use offensive language without realizing it.  Moreover, the sense that Buraku people are enjoying affirmative action policies that they do not deserve has instigated controversy.  “A small private college in the Shikoku Island has a policy of affirmative action to admit Buraku people based on recommendation letters through the quota system.  A female Buraku student who was admitted in 1996 received a threatening letter, saying, ‘Get out of the dormitory, Burakumin.’  She reported this incident at the college study group of Buraku problem, which notified the college administration and the BLL.  The BLL demanded the college to solve this discriminatory incident.  However, in the meantime, the discriminatory graffiti, ‘Stop special quota [for Buraku people]!  It is [reverse] discrimination,’ was written at the college library, and another graffiti with the design of four fingers, which is a symbol of one of derogatory names of Buraku people, yotsu, was written in the classroom.  In response, the denunciation study meeting took place with the attendance of 100 BLL participants and almost all faculties and college administrators.  College president promised that the college would make an effort to enrich the curriculum for human rights, to provide a better understanding of affirmative action for Buraku people, and to improve the workshop of human rights for teachers and students.  The BLL requested specific solutions for the problems encountered by the Buraku students admitted under the quota system” (Kaihō Shinbun, June 23 1997). 

Victims of this type of persecution incidents can bring their case to the local BLL, which usually holds a denunciation session against the offending people and/or institution.  The denunciation session, initiated by the Suiheisha, protects the rights of Buraku people by compensating for inadequate legal sanctions against individual offenders.  Furthermore, the denunciation deters future incidents because people are embarrassed by public criticism.  However, the denunciation has created an impression that the Buraku are intimidating, and discouraged free discussion of Buraku problems.  Among Buraku people, nearly half of the victims of discrimination (46.6%) suffered in silence rather than consulting family and friends (22.4%) or complaining to the offender (20.2%).  Very few (0.6%) seek counsel from the local Legal Affairs Bureau (Sōmuchō 1995:95).

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2-3-1  From the Buraku Problem to the Human Rights Problem

The BLL has softened its once formidable impression, moderating its human rights approach.  The BLL declared political neutrality in 1996, breaking its historic ties with the Social Democratic Party of Japan (called the Japan Socialist Party until January 1996).  The BLL replaced its class struggle ideology with postmodern view.  The BLL seeks the cooperation with the Ainu and Korean minorities, and cooperate with the international human rights movements.  The BLL supported the establishment of a NGO, International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR), in 1988.  The IMADR joined the NGOs of the United Nations in 1993.  The BLL emphasized “human rights, social welfare, and environment” in its 1997 platform, replacing the class-conflict ideology of its 1984 platform.  It declares that discrimination against Buraku people is based on “several non-democratic systems, discriminatory cultures such as irrational superstition, patriarchy household (ie) system, status difference (kisen), and impurity image (kegare).”  The platform opposes the imperial and family registry systems that legitimize status discrimination and discriminatory consciousness (AS May 20, 1997). 

The government also began to regard the Buraku problem as a human rights problem, and to promote human rights education.  The BLL helped enact the Law of Promotion of Measures for Human Rights Protection in 1996.  The Council on the Promotion of Human Rights Protection, founded in 1997, released a report on human rights education in 1999 and a proposal on the relief measures for the victims of human rights violations in 2002 in order to eliminate discrimination.  Local and prefectural governments adopted an ordinance for promoting human rights in order to eliminate all forms of discrimination against disadvantaged minorities such as foreign residents, the disabled, and women.  The ordinance established in Osaka prefecture includes a provision of punishment for a violation of business ethics by the detective agencies.  Four other prefectures enacted similar ordinances that punish a discriminatory investigation by an agent or an employer (Yomiuri Shinbun November 13, 1997).  For example, under the Kagawa ordinance for promoting human rights, a governor can issue a formal reprimand to detective agencies that engage in a discriminatory investigation of Buraku people.  If they refuse to cooperate, the governor can publish the details of their actions after notifying them (Kagawa-ken Seikatsu 1997).

The integration of the SML into the general administration has been championed by the Zenkairen.  The BLL agitates for the continuation of affirmative action programs because it fears the reduction of public subsidies for Buraku people.  The BLL argues that socioeconomic conditions of Buraku people are still poorer than most people in Japan and are routinely subjected to persecution.  The government incorporated special treatment for Buraku people into the general measures to help all victims of discrimination in 2002.  The Special Measures Law for Regional Improvement Projects lapsed in the fiscal year 2001.  The Dōwa Projects were then integrated into the general public projects. 

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2-3-2  Human Rights Education

Since the implementation of the 1969 SML, the government has endorsed Dōwa education, whose purpose is to eliminate prejudice and discrimination among non-Buraku people, by educating them about the Buraku problem.  Starting in the 1980s, the government and the BLL began to regard the Buraku problem as a human rights problem and to promote human rights education in an effort to eliminate discrimination against Buraku people as well as other disadvantaged minorities.  The core of human rights education has been Dōwa education.

However, there are regional discrepancies in the implementation and awareness of Dōwa education.  Social education is more actively promoted in the western part of Japan.  Thus, people who live in the vicinity of Buraku districts know about Dōwa education, but less than half of the population in areas such as the Tōhoku in the northern part of Japan, where very few Buraku people live, have heard of Buraku issues (Sōmuchō 1995:72).

Thanks to the BLL, Buraku issues have been included in the school curriculum in social studies, moral education, special activities/the long homeroom hour, and additional classes (yutori) since the mid-1970s.  The MOE issued “the guideline for Dōwa education at school” in 1994, requiring all schools to offer Dōwa education.  Principals and teachers determine the contents of Dōwa education at their school.  Principals and teachers tend to be less enthusiastic about Dōwa education if their schools do not have Buraku students or if they do not have the government designation as a Dōwa education promotion school.

After the three decades of Dōwa education, most non-Buraku people know that Buraku people have suffered prejudice and discrimination.  In addition to having fundamental knowledge of the Buraku issues, it is important to learn about the lives of Buraku people on a personal level, in order to understand their view of the Buraku problem, and to end prejudice and discrimination against them. 

It is harder to change the minds of adults because they do not have access to Dōwa education unless they make efforts to read the community papers or to attend lectures.  School authorities provide booklets and lectures to parents, and encourage students to discuss the Buraku problem.  Nevertheless, most residents cling to the Buraku stereotypes and are indifferent to the Buraku problem.  Many community leaders and schoolteachers do not pay much attention to the Buraku problem.  It is important to provide community leaders and teachers with leadership workshops and have them discuss the Buraku problem with Buraku people.  The pedagogy developed by Dōwa teachers can be used for adult education in municipal halls, community centers, and cultural centers.  Social education specialists and Dōwa teachers, together with the Buraku community leaders, can take the initiative in transforming the pedagogy of Dōwa adult education.

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2-3-3  Dōwa Education/Human Rights Education at School and in the Community in Marugame City

Marugame City, with a population of 80,000 in Kagawa Prefecture has three Buraku districts with approximately 350 Buraku people, as of 1998.  After the declaration of “The Principle of Dōwa Education” in 1978, the Section of Dōwa education in the Department of Lifelong Education under the Marugame Board of Education has been in charge of Dōwa education.  Two social-education specialists have assisted community leaders in implementing Dōwa education.  The Marugame Research Association of Dōwa Education, founded in 1976, consists of the Board of Education, all public and private schools, social welfare sections of the municipal administration, women’s organizations and PTAs, the BLL, neighborhood associations, and community centers.  They research and discuss the programs for Dōwa education and have an annual meeting to approve the projects and budgets for the year.

The municipal administration implemented Dōwa education through papers, lectures, workshops, and movies.  The monthly municipal newsletter, disseminated through a neighborhood association, serves a means of communication.  A special edition of the municipal paper, “Bulletin of Dōwa Education,” which is issued three times a year, covers human rights events and Dōwa education, and discusses the Buraku.  During the annual Dōwa Issues Week (August 1 to August 6) in 2001, a drum performance was presented at the municipal center before 700 people, and then the main drummer delivered a lecture about his experience in the Buraku Liberation movement. 

During Human Rights Week (December 4 – December 10) in 2001, 300 residents went to the municipal center, where they watched a movie about the human-rights movement and listened to a lecture on discrimination against the Buraku by the secretary-general of Kagawa Human Rights Research Institute.  The pictures and calligraphy made by students on the theme of human rights are displayed in the city hall every year during Human Rights Week.  The Annual Workshop for the Training of the Leaders of Human Rights and Dōwa Education is offered to teachers, company employees, and community leaders for six days so that they can discuss the Buraku at women’s associations, PTAs, neighborhood associations, and cultural centers.  Two films and six videos were purchased as teaching materials for Dōwa education.  Every year, 700 booklets of students’ works about human rights and 300 annual reports on Dōwa education are published and distributed to teachers and community leaders.   Furthermore, two social-education specialists give 70 lectures a year to PTAs, women’s associations, elders’ associations, public administrations, companies, and hospitals.

School authorities attempt to reach parents who have not had formal Dōwa education at school by distributing booklets or bulletins on Dōwa education and by arranging a lecture on the Buraku on Parental Visitation Day.  It is necessary to reduce parents’ prejudice because children learn prejudice at home.  The parents’ generation did not learn about the Buraku at school.  Dōwa education began in the mid-1970s.  According to the 1999 polls, 46 percent of those in their 30s and 23.2 percent of those in their 40s first learned about the Buraku from Dōwa education, compared to 72.4 percent of those in their 20s (Marugame-shi 2000a).  The parents may know about the Buraku from the papers.  However, if they do not live near a Buraku district, there is usually no reason to talk about the Buraku.  Even teachers at school whose districts have no Buraku districts do not pay much attention to the Buraku.  Neighbors of a Buraku district usually know where it is and some would tell children to avoid going there. 

Nor are many parents interested in Dōwa education.  They attend their child’s class on the school visitation day, but very few will stay longer to attend a lecture or to watch a movie about the Buraku.  Sixth-grade teachers are encouraged to discuss the Buraku in class on the visitation day so that parents can become better-informed.  The Board of Education of Kagawa prefecture hands out a guidebook on Dōwa education to the parents of the sixth-graders.  It advises parents not to discriminate against Buraku children, by quoting a poem written by a grandmother of a Buraku child.  The grandmother was saddened when her granddaughter, a fourth-grader, was not invited to her best friend’s birthday party.  The guidebook teaches the fundamentals of the Buraku by printing out excerpts from the social studies textbook.  The guidebook advises parents to talk about the Buraku at home, and to attend a lecture provided by school and the PTA (Kagawa-ken Seikatsu 1997).

According to the Marugame 1999 opinion polls, 93.5 percent of residents have a basic knowledge of the Buraku, thanks to Dōwa education, compared to 74.8 percent nationally.  The majority of residents (76.3%) have read about the Buraku in municipal papers, and 26.5 percent of them have attended lectures and/or workshops relating to Dōwa education.  Despite knowledge about the Buraku, the residents are still uninterested in the Buraku, and are unsympathetic to their suffering.  Most residents believe that the Buraku discrimination still persists in marriage (85.2%), employment (44.2%), and social relations with neighbors (48.2%)(Marugame-shi 2000a).

Dōwa education in Marugame has given students a basic familiarity with the Buraku.  Younger people are more receptive to seeking a solution for discrimination than are older people without formal Dōwa education.  People in their 20s have learned about the Buraku at school.  Younger respondents tend to think that there is more discrimination in marriage, employment, and social relations than do older ones.  However, younger people tend not to discriminate against Buraku people, and to treat the Buraku as equals.  Approximately 6 percent of people in their 20s reported that they would definitely oppose a family member who planned to marry a Buraku, compared to 11.2 percent of people in their 50s.  Also, 11.7 percent of people in their 20s reported that they would avoid associating with an acquaintance if they found out that the acquaintance was from a Buraku district, compared to 20.9 percent of people in their 50s.  Moreover, younger people are more likely than older people to agree with Dōwa education and affirmative action toward the Buraku (Marugame-shi 2000a).  The poll results indicate that Dōwa education has helped students develop greater tolerance and acceptance.

Dōwa teachers design teaching plans on the Buraku by developing supplementary teaching materials and by arranging special events.  According to a teaching plan prepared by one six-grade Dōwa teacher, ten hours are allocated for social studies lessons and long homeroom hour/special activities class.  The teaching plan includes biographies of Buraku people as well as written compositions.  It also emphasizes the contributions of Buraku people in addition to their sufferings so that students have a balanced sense of Buraku history and culture.  Dōwa teachers arrange lectures by Buraku people and visits to Buraku community centers so that the students can meet with Buraku people, and oppose discrimination.

Other sixth-grade teachers may use the supplementary teaching materials developed by Dōwa teachers.  Each teacher can decide how many classroom hours to allocate to Buraku history and issues.  The majority of students do not know that “the lower status people” means Buraku people, and are unaware of the issues and problems facing Buraku people.  It is important that the teachers inform children through familiar and relevant teaching materials. 

Dōwa teachers arrange special events in order for students to communicate with Buraku people at one of the middle schools in Marugame.  The ninth-graders visit a local Buraku community center.  Buraku leaders also come to a middle school in their district.  Human Rights and Dōwa Education Meetings are held annually.  For example, at the Human Rights Meeting in 1997, students watched a movie about discrimination against people with leprosy.  At the Dōwa Education Meeting in 1997, the students learned about the Buraku through films, essays, and legal materials.  In addition, a Korean resident gave a talk to the eighth-graders.  The students were required to write a composition about the lecture and reflect on their thoughts and attitudes toward minority people.  They were then encouraged to talk with their parents.  Dōwa teachers emphasized that through learning directly from Buraku people, Korean residents, and other members of other minorities, the students become more understanding of other peoples and less tolerant of discrimination.

Dōwa education in high schools started later than in elementary and middle schools because until recently few Buraku students attended high school.  Since 1980, one teacher has coordinated Dōwa education and counseling at each high school in the Kagawa Prefecture.  At some high schools, students listen to lectures by a Buraku person or visit a Buraku community with a social-education specialist.  A bulletin about the Buraku is handed out to parents so that they can join the discussion of human-rights issues (Kagawa-ken Kōtōgakko 1997:8-12).

The Kagawa branch association of the Zendōkyō provides opportunities for teachers to discuss and research pedagogy about the Buraku.  A two-hour long homeroom class is designed for discussions on the Buraku and other human-rights issues.  However, since the long homeroom class for human rights problems is compulsory, some teachers and students complain that the subject is forced upon them.  The discussion tends to be rote and unproductive.  One of the Dōwa teachers argues that the emphasis on discrimination creates a negative image of Buraku people, and that it is important to underscore the progress Buraku people have made (Kagawa-ken Kōtōgakko 1997:32-35).

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1871    Emancipation Edict.

1910s    Yūwa (Assimilation) movement.

1922    Suiheisha (The Levelers’ Association).

1942    Dissolution of the Suiheisha.

1946    The National Committee for Buraku Liberation (NCBL).

1955    Buraku Liberation League.

1960    All Japan Dōwa Association.

1969    Special Measures Law for Dōwa Projects.

1976    Zenkairen (National Buraku Liberation Alliance).

1987    International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR).

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Buraku people are the descendants of former outcastes who had been forced to live in specific Buraku (“hamlet”) districts, and were freed by the 1871 Emancipation Edict.  Until the 1960s, Buraku people had confronted poverty and social ostracism, and had lived apart from Japanese society.  That limited their educational attainment led to lower occupational status at the bottom of society. 

The government has committed a substantial amount of public resources to the Buraku people, through measures, such as the Special Measures Law for Assimilation Projects (SML) of 1969, in order to end socioeconomic and psychological discrimination against Buraku people.  The SML and its extension have helped to close the gap between Buraku people and the rest of the population of Japan.  The government has subsidized programs to raise the socioeconomic status of Buraku parents, provided scholarships and loans to educate Buraku children, trained Dōwa teachers specifically for Buraku children, and enforced anti-discriminatory employment policies.  As a result, high school enrollment rates rose from the half of the national average in the 1960s to 90 percent in 1975, compared to 95 percent nationwide.  However, the 5 percent discrepancy has not been narrowed since 1975, despite the continuation of affirmative measures.  The proportion of Buraku children from single-parent households or families on welfare has been higher than that of non-Buraku children.  That indicates that discrepancies may be caused by other factors such as poverty and home environments.

Dōwa education/human rights education is designed to reduce prejudice and discrimination.  Three decades of Dōwa education have helped students and younger adults become more sensitive to the issues facing Buraku people.  Social science textbooks describe Buraku from the Buraku perspective.  However, the textbook-centered instruction does not make students feel positive about Buraku people and to fight against discrimination.  It is important to personalize the teaching about Buraku people and the Buraku problem by having students visit local Buraku communities, invite a Buraku guest lecturer, or watch films about Buraku people.

Thirty-three years of the Dōwa Projects and Dōwa education for Buraku people under the SML and its extension (1969-2002) have been integrated into the general public projects and human rights education.  The Decade of the Human Rights Education (1995-2004) has helped to heighten human rights awareness at school and across Japan.  Dōwa education for the elimination of social discrimination of Buraku people is taught under the framework of the popular human rights without dealing exclusively with Buraku problems.  Human rights education relies on the textbook-based knowledge at school and the one-time events during the Human Rights Week (December 4 – December 10) in the community.  It is important to promote the direct communication and contact with local Buraku people and other minority people in order to personalize their experience and develop sensitivity to them.

Despite the remarkable success of job training and consulting, Buraku people remain disproportionately unemployment and on welfare, because of lower educational attainment, the lack of social networks, and employment discrimination. 

Younger Buraku people who have less direct experience of discrimination are less conscious of their Buraku identity and tend to move out from Buraku districts and into the majority culture, thwarting the efforts of the BLL to train the next generation of Buraku leaders.  When the socioeconomic conditions among Buraku people reach the national average, and the prejudice and discrimination against non-Buraku people end, Buraku identity will gain symbolic status as “Buraku heritage” from the collective memories of the past sufferings and struggles.

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